Monday, November 15, 2010

Curry, Saban , Mark Ingram in Alabama : Round Two

Thursday evening on ESPNU Alabama hosts Georgia State in a non-conference game. Atlanta native and Georgia Tech legend Bill Curry is the Panthers' head coach. For those who've been in a coma for four years or stumbled onto this by accident looking for a cooking blog, Nick Saban is the Tide's coach. But this will not be the first time Curry and Saban have locked horns. 25 years ago the two, albeit as Saban was a defensive coordinator, met in the All-American Bowl at Birmingham's Legion Field.

Thursday marks the Silver Anniversary of Bill Curry and Nick Saban' s first meeting at the 1985 All-American Bowl at Birmingham's Legion Field
Alabama returns Heisman Winner Mark Ingram,Jr. Ingram's dad was the offensive MVP in '85

Now, certainly neither Georgia Tech or Michigan State are in the SEC or were in the SEC in 1985.But Bill Curry played for Georgia Tech in the early to mid 1960's in the twilight of Tech's tenure in the SEC, coached at Alabama as well as Kentucky. Saban of course, coached LSU in addition to Alabama. So...

Curry was in his sixth season at Tech and the All-American Bowl would be his first bowl since becoming the Yellow Jackets' head coach in 1980.Michigan State was coached by George Perles in his fourth season as the Spartans' head coach. Both coaches had been players,assistant coaches previously at the respective school where they were currently head coaches as they both tried to revive the glory days each school enjoyed in the 1950's and 1960's where oddly enough Georgia Tech and Michigan State shared the 1952 National Title.Neither school would win the 1985 National Title, but a win in Birmingham would give the Yellow Jackets their 9th win (their most wins since 1970). For the Spartans, a win would be their first bowl win since the 1956 Rose Bowl win over UCLA.

Michigan State was looking for its first bowl win since a 17-14 win over UCLA in the 1956 Rose

Georgia Tech entered the game 8-2-1 while Michigan State was 7-4. Both had played rugged schedules with Tech being tied by a late Tennessee field goal in Knoxville 6-6 and a tough loss at home to Bo Jackson and Auburn, 17-14. Among State's losses were a 35-31 loss in Iowa City to Big 10 Champ Iowa and losses to Fiesta Bowl winner Michigan and Peach Bowl participant Illinois.

The '85 Yellow Jackets were led on offense by quarterback John Dewberry and on defense by All-American Pat Swilling who was part of defensive coordinator Don Lindsey's "Black Watch" defense. The 'Black Watch' was a nickname to the 1985 defense,but more notably to identify particular players and big hitters who were given a think black stripe to go down the middle of Tech's otherwise all gold helmets. Swilling ,and the success of the '85 Jackets, is credited by some Tech folk today for perhaps 'saving big time football' on the Flats as Georgia Tech chancellor Dr. Joseph Pettit in the late 1970's considered de-emphasizing football.

Georgia Tech's "Black Watch" defense was led by All-American Pat Swilling

Michigan State's 1985 Spartans were led on defense by Shane Bullough and on offense by Lorenzo White. In the Spartans' 28-24 win at Purdue, White rushed 53 times for 244 yards. MSU won the game on an incredible 22 play drive that went 89 yards and took 7:39 off the clock as State scored with :08 left.Only a sophomore, White was the only offensive player that was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection, which included Heisman runner up Chuck Long of Iowa. White himself finished fourth in Heisman balloting.

Michigan State was led on offense by running back Lorenzo White ,who's 2006 rushing yards in 1985 remains a record in East Lansing

The Spartans also had a talented junior wide receiver named Mark Ingram. Ingram was recruited out of Flint,MI where he was a quarterback and for two years one of his favorite targets was Andre Rison, who joined Ingram in East Lansing as a freshman in 1985. In 1985 Ingram had 745 receiving yards on 34 receptions for a 22 yard average per catch. Ingram finished his Spartan career the following season with 1944 career yards on 95 receptions where he is tenth all-time for Michigan State. After he left in 1986, he was third only behind Kirk Gibson and former San Francisco 49er All-Pro Gene Washington.

Mark Ingram,SR, shown vs Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV was named offensive MVP of the 1985 All-American Bowl in Birmingham even though Michigan State lost

On defense, the Spartans were led by Bullough from high school power house Cincinnati Moeller where he became Perles' first recruit in 1983.Bullough's coach in tenth grade was Gerry Faust. Bullough is part of what many in green consider Michigan State's "first family". His dad Hank was a star on MSU Biggie Munn's 1952 National Champs . His brother, Chuck played from 1987-1991.Hank's first coaching job was along side Perles as an assistant under Duffy Daughtery at Michigan State before becoming an NFL assistant and head coach for Buffalo before finishing his career as an assistant under Perles at Michigan State in 1994.

The '85 Spartans' defense was led by leading tackler, Shane Bullough

Perles himself was quite a respected defensive specialist before being named Michigan State's head coach in 1983 following the highly popular, but unsuccessful Frank "Muddy " Waters. In fact Waters was so revered by players and fans that after it was announced early in the week he would not be retained for '83, he was carried off the field after the season finale to Iowa after a 24-18 loss. During Perles' first stop in East Lansing where he was defensive line coach, the Spartans' won two national titles and one of his star players was Bubba Smith. He moved on to Pittsburgh in 1972 where he was part of the "Steel Curtain" and four Super Bowls. He was defensive coordinator in 1978 which culminated in Miami with a 35-31 win over Dallas in Super Bowl XIII.He left Pittsburgh after the 1981 season and moved east to Philadelphia to be head coach of the Stars of the new USFL. However, before the season started he took the Michigan State job . The Stars sued and settled with Michigan State for 'tampering' and hired Jim Mora as its new coach.

George Perles, Michigan State's coach in 1985 , had been a defensive coach with the Steelers throughout the 70's providing young DC Nick Saban with a great training ground

Saban came to East Lansing from Gary Tranquill's Navy staff coaching there in 1982 after having been on Earle Bruce's Ohio State staff in 1980 and 1981.Tranquill and Saban coached together several times after 1982. They were both on Bill Belichick's Cleveland staff from 1991-1993 and Tranquill was Saban's offensive coordinator from 1995-1998 when Saban returned to East Lansing as head coach.

As Michigan State's defensive coordinator in 1985, this was during the first of two five year stays in East Lansing. The second was as Head Coach from 1995-1999

"Bowl Week" started on Friday the 26th for the New Year's Eve contest on Wednesday.After an All-American Bowl function ended around 9:15, the Tech team was returned to their hotel around 9:30 and were on their own until a 1:00 a.m. curfew.Four Yellow Jackets missed curfew including split end Gary Lee, flanker Toby Pearson, and reserve fullback Charles Mack. The fourth player was starting quarterback John Dewberry.Dewberry had taken virtually every meaningful snap for Tech throwing for 1557 yards on 110 of 193 passing with 10 touchdowns. Reluctantly, Curry suspended all four therefore ending the senior Dewberry's career at Tech. Dewberry who had family in Birmingham had been out with his teammates to some relatives' homes and had missed curfew. Family members even tried to persuade Curry to relent ,but he wouldn't.

Curry and Dewberry in a happier moment the prior year after a 38-18 win in Athens. Later that evening Dewberry was arrested and later convicted of DUI, a precursor of the next season's events keeping Dewberry out of the bowl

Back up Todd Lampley would be Tech's starting quarterback. He had thrown three pass in 1985 completing two with one interception. On the Michigan State side, Perles vowed nothing would change preparation wise recanting his days with the Steelers when prior to a game with Chicago they found out Bears' star Walter Payton" wouldn't play and the defense seemed to relax. Mike Adamle then rushed for 150 yards in Payton's place ." Still, the Steelers won that game 34-3.

Georgia Tech, of all teams, was no stranger to quarterback suspensions before bowl games. Prior to the 1972 season finale at Georgia, then Tech coach Bill Fulcher suspended starting quarterback Eddie McAshan who defiantly missed two practices after being refused extra tickets to Athens. McAshan was also Georgia Tech's first black quarterback, and football player period. McAshan was also the first black quarterback for a major southern university.As charges of racial discrimination were fired at Fulcher and Tech for McAshan's suspension, approximately 150 civil rights demonstrators picketed outside of Memphis' Memorial Stadium the night of the Liberty Bowl against Johnny Majors' 5-5-1 Iowa State team. Back up Jim Stevens led Tech to a dramatic 31-30 win over the Cyclones and Majors announced he had accepted the Pittsburgh Panthers job the next day.

Suspended starting quarterbacks for bowl game is almost a Georgia Tech tradition. In 1972, Eddie McAshan (above) was suspended for the Liberty Bowl.In 2006, Reggie Ball was suspended for the Gator Bowl.

Georgia Tech behind leading rusher Malcolm King 's 122 yards on 16 carries scored on a five yard run with less than 2:00 left to give Tech a 17-14 win over Michigan State.This came two minutes after a David Bell 40 yard field goal cut the Tech deficit to 14-10.Rampley played a capable game completing his first three passes and settling in for 12 of 23 passing on 99 yards and one interception. He scored Tech's first td on a one yard run after a King 55 yard run to the goal line.

Michigan State moved the ball repeatedly on Tech. White rushed for 158 yards, the 11th time in '85 he rushed over 100 yards in a game.Both Spartan touchdowns came on Dave Yarema to Mark Ingram touchdown passes. The first came after an interception near midfield and after a 37 yard completion to Ingram, Yarema found him all alone two plays later for a six yard touchdown.After pinning Tech inside the two and holding, Michigan State got the ball back at the Tech 38 after a short punt. Two plays later Yarema hit Ingram on a 27 yard touchdown pass.

After Tech took its one and only lead, the Spartans had a chance for either a tie or win. Yarema and Ingram hooked up twice to get the ball into Georgia Tech territory before turning the ball over on downs and Tech ran out the clock.

While on the losing team, Ingram was named offensive MVP. Tech's Ted Roof was named defensive MVP.